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A Resident Evil Mea Culpa

Resident Evil 4 artwork
I would also like to apologize for saying bad things about Resident Evil 4 on Facebook recently

Ever since I played through the intensely disappointing Resident Evil 5, I have not been shy in bashing the direction the franchise has been going in lately, even going so far as to declare last year that "Resident Evil is Dead to Me." Since then, Resident Evil 6 was released to relatively mediocre reviews and failed to live up to Capcom's sales expectations after launch. Combined with the apparent demise of the once-promising Dead Space IP and the spiralling-further-and-further-into-irrelevance Silent Hill games, one can understand my cynicism when it comes to survival horror as a gaming genre. Still, nothing has bothered me more than how far the Resident Evil series has wandered from its roots in pursuit of a wider, more ADD-raddled audience.

Then, wondering how bad it could be, I downloaded the demo for the latest release, Resident Evil: Revelations. This game was originally a Nintendo 3DS exclusive, but due to its popularity and sales figures, Capcom decided to make an HD port for all the major consoles. I didn't actually know this when I downloaded the demo; in fact, I knew nothing about the game whatsoever because I had stopped keeping tabs on the franchise after writing my break-up letter last April. The demo is ludicrously short, but it got my attention for a couple of reasons.

The Queen Zenobia
Granted, the "Queen Zenobia" is a pretty stupid-sounding name

First, it is set on a derelict cruise ship. This is, hands-down, the best setting for a Resident Evil game since the original Spencer Mansion, made all the more creepy by the subtle rocking and creaking. While you do control your character--Jill, in the demo--through the modern over-the-shoulder perspective, the frequent 90-degree corners and tight spaces make the setting feel just as claustrophobic as the stationary camera angles do in the classic games. There's plenty of shadows, swinging lights, bolts of distant lightning flashing through broken portholes, and sparks of loose wiring from chewed electrical panels. There's wind and rain, the sounds of cans falling off of shelves and rolling back and forth along the floor, dripping vents, and pools of blood and gore scattered liberally throughout. Best of all, not every room has an enemy in it, and you are forced to backtrack, always wondering which "safe" room will harbor a surprise upon your return.

zombie cleavage
There's also ludicrously unnecessary cleavage in both the human and zombie varieties, so there's something for everyone

Secondly, I ran out of ammo the first time through the demo. I don't think I ran out of ammo once during my entire playthrough of Resident Evil 5, and it's one of the things that pissed me off about it. When a horror game makes you feel safe, it's not as effective as when it makes you wonder if five bullets will get you back to that locked door now that you have the key. When I play a Resident Evil game, I don't want the game to hold my hand; I want it to tease me and test me.

Lastly--and this might sound strange to people who aren't fans of the classic games--there was a locked door with an anchor symbol on it. This let me know two things: (1) Resident Evil: Revelations has multiple keys that open multiple doors; and (2) in the full game, I would have to backtrack to this section some indeterminate time later in order to open that door. This was promising.

Anchor door
Special doors with special locks that require special keys? Hooray, it's the 20th Century again!

I had some reservations, of course. The demo ends with a nonsensical twist that seems to set up a truly ridiculous plot, the enemies are more like walking slimes than zombies, and it seems set up for co-op as Jill has a sidekick in the demo. So I went onto the Miiverse and asked owners of the game what they thought. I didn't hear a lot of negatives, aside from a couple of people who told me the game didn't have enough action.

So I bought the full game, and have spent the last month with it. This is the hard part, because I have to admit something truly painful and difficult: I was wrong. Resident Evil: Revelations is classic Resident Evil brought to the modern generation, proof that somebody over at Capcom still remembers what made the original games so great. Sure, it's not a flawless game--the plot is just as mind-bendingly insipid as I feared with some characters who couldn't be any more annoying even if they were voiced by Gilbert Godfried (I'm looking at you, Keith and Quint); there's swimming, which I hate; and there are a few pointless flashback levels that seem thrown in just to toss some high action at the player--but it's what Resident Evil 5 should have been. If Capcom's bean counters conclude that Resident Evil: Revelations was ultimately more profitable than Resident Evil 6, we might see the franchise brought back to what it used to be.

Thank you for playing!
And thank YOU for being a game deserving of the Resident Evil brand!

Because, even in its most apparent weaknesses, Revelations has far more in common with the first Resident Evil than the last one. For example, the dialogue is cheese-tastic, seemingly written by an eight-year-old. While Jill is no longer called a "master of lock-picking" (although, really, that skill would have come in handy), her voice actress is still tasked with delivering some truly terrible lines. While there's no arguing that bad writing is a bad thing, it's actually kind of endearing here for its nostalgic qualities.

So... I take it back. Resident Evil may not be dead to me after all. I just can't quit you or stay mad at you, Capcom. As a side note, I leave you with the following quote from Masachika Kawata, long-time producer of the series, from an interview published by IGN in January: "I think itís undeniable to say the series returning to its roots is important, and those roots are horror."

-e. magill 12/4/2013

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